Ependymoma

Ependymoma

Ependymal tumors begin in the ependyma, cells that line the passageways in the brain where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced and stored. Ependymomas are classified as either supratentorial (in the cerebral hemispheres) or infratentorial (in the back of the brain). Variations of this tumor type include subependymoma, subependymal giant-cell astrocytoma, and malignant ependymoma. Ependymoblastoma, which occurs in infants and children under three years, is no longer considered a subtype of ependymoma. For ependymoblastoma, see primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) in the Non-glial Tumors section.

Characteristics

  • Usually localized to one area of the brain
  • Develops from cells that line the hollow cavities at the bottom of the brain and the canal containing the spinal cord
  • Can be slow growing or fast growing
  • May be located in the ventricles (cavities in the center of the brain)
  • May block the ventricles, causing hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
  • Sometimes extends to the spinal cord
  • Common in children, and among men and women in their 40s and 50s
  • Occurrence peaks at age five and again at age 34
  • Accounts for two percent of all brain tumors

Symptoms

  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Visual problems

Treatment

The doctor will perform tests to determine if it has spread to the spinal cord. Surgery followed by radiation therapy is the usual course of treatment. A shunt may be needed to treat hydrocephalus caused by blockage of the ventricles.

Learn more about other tumor types.

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